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The Dangers of Working at Height

Photo of facade thermal insulation and painting works

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 place various duties on employers and those who control works at height. These include ensuring that all work is suitably supervised and planned, that risk assessments are carried out, that appropriate work equipment is used and properly inspected and maintained and that people working at height are competent.

We often talk about the importance of taking reasonable steps to comply with the health and safety regulations that apply to your business. It is important because if a member of staff or a contractor is injured and makes a claim against you, the insurers who provide your employers’ liability cover will be looking for evidence of your commitment to making every effort to avoid a dangerous situation arising.

Make Sure you Know the Regulations

It is therefore crucial that you make yourself fully aware of all the regulations that apply to you. If you are in the construction, roofing or transport industries, or work in agriculture, forestry or arboriculture, you will find some extremely useful industry-specific information on working at height on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

Accidents involving falls from height are commonplace and for this reason the HSE has produced an extensive range of resources to help employers comply with the regulations and provide a safe working environment for their staff.

Prosecutions & Compensation Claims

To illustrate the extent of the issue, just in the last month there have been 10 prosecutions by the HSE where non-compliance with the Work at Height Regulations has led to incidents causing injuries, most of them serious and some severe. Multiple broken bones often result from falls from height, and broken backs and spinal injuries are commonplace. These injuries can be life changing with intense rehabilitation required, and sometimes ongoing care.

Not only do companies who breach the regulations find themselves facing fines and legal costs amounting to thousands of pounds, they also have personal injury compensation claims to contend with. And it’s these claims where an insurer will be looking for evidence that an employer made every effort to provide a safe working environment and comply with their legal obligations.

Many of the past month’s HSE work at height prosecutions involved safety failings. The absence of guard rails, poor ladder safety, failure to undertake risk assessments, insufficient training and lack of staff competence were behind some of the fines. One contractor received a four-month suspended prison sentence after a self-employed bricklayer for whom he was responsible fell from scaffolding and was left paralysed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. So you can clearly see the importance of making yourself fully aware of how to keep employees safe when working at height.

Where to Find out More

If you are responsible for any form of work at height, you can read more about your responsibilities and find plenty of information on the HSE website on their dedicated work at height pages. If you’d like to talk to us about employers’ liability insurance and ensuring you have the right level and type of cover, please get in touch.